Paris Diary - Taryn Simon and Florence Henri Exhibitions at Jeu de Paume

I'm back from a mini spring break in Paris and London. I wanted to blog whilst I was there, but decided to switch off as much as I can and enjoy my time in the two cities. But in the next few blogposts, I will share with you some of my experience from this trip.

First up, my visit to Jeu de Paume in Paris:


Taryn Simon - Rear Views, A Star-forming Nebula, and the Office of Foreign Propaganda

Taryn Simon is one of my favourite artists, I've seen some of her work in previous exhibitions in London and Dubai. But Taryn Simon's exhibition at Jeu de Paume was quite comprehensive, featuring six series "The Innocents", "An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar", "Contraband", "A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters", "The Picture Collection" plus two videos, "Exploding Warhead" and "Cutaways". 

Here's a video with Taryn Simon discussing the series "A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters" and "A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters" and "The Picture Collection" which I had not seen before and absolutely loved. You can also see an image per series below the video.

The Innocents

Taryn Simon - The Innocents, 2002 | Larry Mayes Scene of arrest, The Royal Inn, Gary, Indiana Police found Mayes hiding beneath a mattress in this room Served 18.5 years of an 80-year sentence for Rape, Robbery, and Unlawful Deviate Conduct

Her earliest series, The Innocents, documents cases of wrongful conviction throughout the United States, calling into question photography’s function as a credible witness and arbiter of justice. She underscores photography’s ability to blur truth and fiction – an ambiguity that can have severe, even lethal, consquences.

An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar

Taryn Simon - An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, 2007 | Nuclear Waste Encapsulation and Storage Facility, Cherenkov Radiation Hanford Site, U.S. Department of Energy Southeastern Washington State

In An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar, Simon compiles an inventory of what lies hidden and out-of-view within the borders of the United States. She examines a culture through documentation of subjects from domains including: science, government, medicine, entertainment, nature, security, and religion.


Taryn Simon - Contraband, 2010 | Bird corpse, labeled as home décor, Indonesia to Miami, Florida (prohibited)

Contraband presents an inventory of items seized by American customs officials at John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York. Simon remained on site over a period of five days and four nights, continuously photographing and collecting data on 1,075 objects that were refused entry to the U.S. These images are classified in a manner reminiscent of an entomological collection: placed within Plexiglas cases, they represent an archive of global desires and perceived threats.

A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters

Taryn Simon - Chapter XI A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I–XVIII, 2011

Taryn Simon - Chapter V (Censored) Installation view, Ullens Center for Contemporary Arts, Beijing, China, 2013 A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I – XVIII, 2011 Many of the works in A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I – XVIII were refused entry for exhibition, including: the text panels for all 13 chapters on view, Chapter V (South Korea) in its entirety, Chapter I (India) footnote panel, and Chapter XV (China) footnote panel.

A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters was produced over a four-year period (2008-2011) during which Simon travelled around the world researching and recording bloodlines and their related stories.

In each of the eighteen “chapters” comprising the work, legacies of territory, power, religion and circumstance collide with psychological and physical inheritance.

The subjects documented by Simon include victims of genocide in Bosnia, test rabbits infected with a lethal disease in Australia, the first woman to hijack an aircraft, and the living dead in India. Her collection is at once cohesive and arbitrary, mapping relations of chance, blood, and other components of fate.

The Picture Collection


Taryn Simon - The Picture Collection, 2013 | Folder: Financial Panics

The Picture Collection (2013) takes as its subject the New York Public Library’s picture archive, which contains 1.2 million prints, postcards, posters, and printed images. It is the largest circulating picture library in the world, organised according to a complex cataloguing system of over 12,000 subject headings.

Since its inception in 1915, it has been an important resource for writers, historians, artists, filmmakers, fashion designers, and advertising agencies. Simon highlights the impulse to archive and organize visual information, and points to the invisible hands behind seemingly neutral systems of image gathering. Simon sees this extensive archive of images as a precursor to Internet search engines.

Videos: "Exploding Warhead" and "Cutaways"                                                                      



Florence Henri - Mirror of the avant-garde 1927-1940

This was the first time I see work by Florence Henri and I treated this exhibition as a lesson in composition. The exhibition includes her self-portraits, abstract compositions, portraits of artists, nudes, photomontages, photocollages, as well as documentary photos taken in Rome, Paris and Brittany.

Here's a video with the exhibition curator Cristina Zelich discussing Florence Henri and her work. Warning, includes some of nude photography.

Florence Henri (New York 1893 – Compiègne (France) 1982) was a multi-faceted artist, who was first known for her paintings before making a name for herself as a major figure in avant-garde photography between the end of the 1920s and the beginning of the 1940s. She lived in Silesia, Munich, Vienna, Rome and above all Berlin, before finally settling in Paris in 1924 and devoting herself to photography. This medium enabled her to experiment new relationships with space, in particular by the use of mirrors and other objects in her compositions.


Florence Henri - Composition, 1928

Florence Henri - Composition Nature morte, 1929

Florence Henri - Portrait Composition, Tulia Kaiser. 1930

When she was young, Florence Henri studied music and painting in England and Germany. In 1919, when she was a student at the Berlin Academy of Arts, she made the acquaintance of writer and art historian Carl Einstein and became friends with several figures of the avant-garde, including Hans Arp, Adrian Ludwig Richter, John Heartfield and Lázló Moholy-Nagy.

She took classes with Paul Klee and Vassily Kandinsky at the Bauhaus in Weimar. In 1924 she moved to Paris, where she followed classes at the Académie Montparnasse, whose director was André Lhote, then at the Académie moderne (founded by Fernand Léger and Amédée Ozenfant). In 1927, after a visit to Bauhaus in Dessau, she abandoned painting in favour of photography. It was at this time that she produced her famous self-portraits in mirrors and her still lifes; the result of her first steps in the spatial research that she would carry out through the medium of photography.

Florence Henri - Autoportrait,1928Florence Henri - Fenêtre, 1929


The Taryn Simon and Florence Henri exhibitions at Jeu de Paume in Paris are on till 17th May 2015.

[images via]